In a laboratory in the depths of Imperial College London, all eyes are on a group of mice scurrying about their daily business. The rodents were injected a few weeks ago with a prototype vaccine which it is hoped will achieve what the world has so far singularly failed to do – stop the coronavirus Covid-19.
Progress, says Professor Robin Shattock of Imperial’s department of infectious disease, looks good. His team first started developing the vaccine in mid-January and are working at record pace, taking just 14 days to get from the genetic sequencing of the virus to generating the trial vaccine in the laboratory. It relies upon a cutting-edge technique which injects new genetic code into the muscle, instructing it to make a protein found on the surface of coronavirus triggering a protective immune response. Should the mice trial prove a success then Prof Shattock hopes to be experimenting on humans in the summer and have a vaccine ready next year – perhaps even the first in the world….